My choir’s first Advent Carol, this coming week:
Remembering some of his words, on the anniversary of his death.
“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back til you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’ –or else not.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
“The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with out friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
– C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Correction: I have discovered the above quote attributed to Lewis, “You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream” is not his.
Handel’s Messiah, No. 4 Chorus
I found a new (to me) hymn this morning in Hymns of Grace. Titled “I Plead For Grace,” it is an adaptation of Psalm 51 by Joseph Tyrpak, and is paired with a familiar hymn tune, Morecambe. If you would like to sing it Mr. Fleischer’s piano rendition is a nice accompaniment.
I Plead For Grace
I plead for grace,O God of steadfast love;
By Your great mercy, all my sin remove.
Deeply ashamed for spurning You alone,
I stand condemned before your holy throne.
Though you want truth and purity within,
I am unclean, conceived with inborn sin.
Purge me with blood, and wash me white as snow.
Hide my transgressions; heal my broken soul.
Create in me a spotless heart, I pray.
Take not Your Spirit! Cast me not away!
Restore to me salvation’s joy anew,
Then I will teach the lost to turn to You.
Save me, O God with blood my hands are stained!
Open my lips to praise Your righteous name.
Though You reject a thoughtless sacrifice,
My broken, contrite heart You’ll not despise.
Lord, in Your goodness, build up Zion’s walls.
Let not my sin tear down Your glorious cause.
May You delight in ev’ry sacrifice,
Offered by sinners You have purified.
God can be just and sinners justify
For Jesus bled God’s wrath to satisfy.
My sins the spikes that nailed Christ to the tree—
God’s love and justice there for all to see.
In 1674 Jodocus Van Lodenstein, a Dutch Reformed Pietist, first used the term “always reforming” in reference to the church. He said “The church is reformed and always (in need of) being reformed according to the Word of God.” Because of our wily and corrupt human nature it is still true today. Those first reformers were concerned to return to what the Church was meant to be according to scripture, correcting false and corrupt doctrine and traditions. We too need to guard against the siren call to adapt to the culture or indulge personal preferences. We must remember “Sola Scriptura.”
In that spirit Jonathan Aigner suggests 95 more theses for the modern church door. A few of them:
- How to do worship is not fundamentally a question of preference, but meaning.
- Theology, not taste, should determine how we worship.
- Worship isn’t about declaring our attraction and affection for God, but declaring the character of God, and God’s creative and redemptive acts in human history.
- Being a Christian should scare the hell out of us. If it doesn’t, we aren’t doing it right. Worship brings us together in our vulnerability.
- The world around us is ugly, and mimicking the ugliness to make church relevant ends up making the church sad and irrelevant.
- The church’s relevance is found in its divine Alternative to the ugliness of a fallen cosmos.
I had to read this next one a couple of times, but I agree with him. My reading some of the Psalms in which the writer declares his innocence and righteousness come to mind:
- Speaking the truth of the gospel will sometimes be a lie. Liturgy calls us to speak, sing, read, and pray words that we don’t believe. The discipline of choosing to speak the Truth over what is true in our lives at any given point will unquestionably make the truth we live closer to the Truth we speak.
Of course I agree with his comments on entertainment style music and singing in church worship. For instance:
- Music in worship isn’t supposed to be a vehicle for emotional manipulation or sensory gratification.
- Music itself carries expressive potential, and it can support theological meaning well or poorly.
- Music in worship should always serve the liturgy, instead of being either the main attraction or the “warm-up” act.
- Singing in worship is a sacred discipline.
- Through word and sacrament, worship should mold and shape the community of faith into the likeness of its Savior.
Alistair Begg carries so many poems, tunes, scriptures, hymns in his memory. Today I heard this for the first time so had to find it in hymn form. I like it a lot.
Gracious Father, we humbly ask on behalf of your Church. Fill it with all truth; and all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purge it; where it is in error, direct it; where it is superstitious, rectify it; where anything is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen and confirm it; where is in need, furnish it; where it is divided and torn apart, unite it, O Holy One of Israel.
Archbishop William Laud
Thanks to Trevin Wax’s Prayer Room